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WVU basketball: Mountaineers come up short against Purdue

By Michael Carvelli

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - For much of the second half of Sunday's game against Purdue, West Virginia seemed to be on the verge of making a run and taking a lead, only to leave the floor on the losing end of a close game once again.

The 73-70 loss was WVU's fifth of the season - all of which have come by fewer than 10 points.

"This is a game that we needed," junior point guard Juwan Staten said. "It feels like this is kind of becoming a trend. Games that we need, we're finding a way not to come up with them."

With 4 seconds to play, Purdue guard Terone Johnson missed the second of two free throws to give West Virginia (7-5) the ball with a chance to tie the game.

WVU sophomore Eron Harris, who had scored 24 points up to that point, grabbed the board and took off down the court before pulling up from beyond the arc - only to see Johnson block his shot to end the game.

"I had to get it up the floor and try to find somewhere, but I guess they knew I was going to shoot it," Harris said. "I wasn't even looking up, I was just trying to get to a spot and shoot it.

"Collectively, shots weren't falling. We have good games and bad games. We had three great practices in a row this week, I don't understand how we came out here and lost this one."

The Mountaineers struggled to consistently score, among their strong suits early in the season. They shot just 37 percent from the floor, and were 3-of-18 from beyond the arc against the Boilermakers (10-3).

"We're not going to make them all, but we've got to at least make some," West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins said. "Our offensive execution just isn't very good."

West Virginia was able to get out to 9-0 lead sparked by Terry Henderson's five points.

In the matter of a minute, Purdue countered with an 8-0 run to tie the game at 14. Basil Smotherman caught an outlet pass from Jay Simpson after WVU freshman Nathan Adrian missed a layup out of a timeout and took it the length of the floor for a transition layup. A little more than a minute later, the Mountaineers regained the lead with an Eron Harris off-balance jumper.

From there, the teams went back and forth in a sloppy first half, combining for 14 turnovers and shooting 38 percent from the field. The lead switched hands nine times with three ties in the final 7 minutes of the half before a Travis Carroll layup gave Purdue a 35-33 halftime lead.

"You're not always going to make shots, but if the ball's not going in it should be a very low-scoring game because we should be playing defense," Staten said. "Defense is something we can control and that's where we had our biggest letdown."

Purdue was able to come out of the locker room and extend its lead to seven as West Virginia missed its first four shots of the second half.

The Mountaineers kept it close throughout the first few minutes of the half, but jumpers from Kendall Stephens and Bryson Scott gave the Boilermakers an eight-point lead and forced Huggins to call a timeout.

Slowly but surely, West Virginia was able to work its way back into the game thanks in part to freshman forward Devin Williams' performance from the free throw line.

The Cincinnati, Ohio, native picked up his fourth career double-double, scoring 20 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. The 47-percent foul shooter hit eight of his nine attempts from the free throw line.

"Devin cares. He's struggled at the foul line, so he's come in and spent a ton of time on it," Huggins said. "He'll continue to get better. He listens. He tries to do what you ask him to do."

But for every run the Mountaineers would make, Purdue came back with a big bucket to slow the momentum and take the Coliseum crowd of 10,019 out of the game.

West Virginia was able to cut it to two points when Nathan Adrian made a layup with a little more than 5 minutes to play, but a 7-2 run by Purdue extended the lead back out to seven forcing the Mountaineers to begin fouling.

Harris led the Mountaineers on 9-of-18 shooting, and Staten was the other Mountaineer to join Harris and Williams in double figures, scoring 14 points to go with four assists.

Terone and Ronnie Johnson led Purdue, scoring 20 and 14 points, respectively, while Smotherman finished with 11 points and five rebounds.

West Virginia's final game before opening Big 12 play is Dec. 29 against William & Mary at the Charleston Civic Center.

 


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